Norfolk, Va. – The Navy plans to install and test a prototype electromagnetic railgun aboard a joint high speed vessel (JHSV) in fiscal year 2016, the service announced on Monday.
The test will mark the first time an electromagnetic railgun (EM railgun) has been used at sea, symbolizing a significant advance in naval combat.
EM railgun technology uses an electromagnetic force – known as the Lorenz Force – to rapidly accelerate and launch a projectile between two conductive rails.
The projectile maintains enough kinetic energy that it does not require any kind of explosive payload when it reaches its target.
“The electromagnetic railgun represents an incredible new offensive capability for the U.S. Navy,” said Rear Adm. Bryant Fuller, the Navy’s chief engineer. “This capability will allow us to effectively counter a wide-range of threats at a relatively low cost, while keeping our ships and sailors safer by removing the need to carry as many high-explosive weapons.”
“Energetic weapons, such as EM railguns, are the future of naval combat,” said Rear Adm. Matt Klunder, the chief of naval research. “The U.S. Navy is at the forefront of this game-changing technology.”
This demonstration is the latest in a series of tests aimed at providing an operational railgun to the fleet.
Since 2005, the Navy and its partners have been testing railgun technology at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Va., and the Naval Research Lab where the service has a number of prototype systems.
The final operational system will be capable of launching guided, multi-mission projectiles up to 110 nautical miles.
The tests will allow the Navy to best understand needed ship modifications before fully integrating the technology.
The Navy is using a JHSV for the test because of its available cargo and topside space and schedule flexibility. Because JHSVs are non-combatants, there is no plan to permanently install a railgun on any ship of the class.
A final decision has not been made on which ship classes will receive a fully operational railgun.